Violence against women in South Korea: femicide in the subway station

Another woman has been murdered by her stalker in South Korea. But violence against women continues to be played down there.

A crowd, a woman holding a sign on the

Demonstration against sexual violence on International Women's Day in Seoul in 2018 Photo: Seung-il Ryu/NurPhoto/picture alliance

BEIJING taz | In front of the subway toilet is a makeshift memorial altar: dozens of bouquets are piled on the floor, the yellow tiles cover hundreds of colorful notes. Residents of the South Korean capital Seoul wrote their desperation and anger on it: "Femicides are the norm in South Korea," says one of the countless pieces of paper.

On Wednesday evening, a 31-year-old man ambushed his victim in the corridors of the Sindang subway station. He waited 70 minutes for the Metro employee to go to the women's restroom. There he stabbed her. The woman died that night.

Her tragic death is not unique. The Left Daily Newspaper Hankyoreh evaluated 500 murders of women at the end of 2021 and found that in more than a third of all femicides the perpetrator had already noticed violence beforehand.

That was also the case with the murder at the Sindang station. Perpetrator and victim were once work colleagues. He stalked the woman for several years and most recently threatened to upload illegal footage of her to the Internet if she continued to refuse his advances.

The threatened received no official protection

The threatened woman filed a complaint twice, but found no protection: an injunction against the man was always rejected.

The case has received a lot of attention on South Korea's social media. Many young women react with a mixture of helplessness and anger. Because for years, brutal femicides have been emblazoned on the front pages of the newspapers almost every week, without the male establishment of the patriarchal society really acknowledging the problem.

Even now, many politicians are again arguing with the classic perpetrator-victim reversal: A member of parliament said in parliament, for example, that the perpetrator acted in this way "because the woman did not respond to his advances".

It was not until the end of August that the government, under the aegis of the Ministry for Equal Opportunities, published a study according to which every third Korean woman has already experienced violence. In almost 50 percent of the cases, the perpetrator was the respective partner or husband.

Ministry is bashful with findings

But the handling of these findings is even more shameful: the survey was only published quietly and secretly on the ministry's website. The usual press release including a press conference did not exist.

That might have political reasons. Because the same ministry for equality, which is committed to the concerns of women, is to be abolished under President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has been in office since spring.

The conservative politician had targeted young men with this election promise, many of whom share their rejection of feminism. The message caught on: While nearly 60 percent of male voters in their 20s voted for Yoon, it was only 33 percent of women in this age group.

"The fact that women are discriminated against while men are given preferential treatment is a thing of the past," Yoon said recently. But that's easy to falsify: South Korea has the widest gender pay gap of any OECD country.

President stands for “harmful gender stereotypes”

"Yoon's misogynistic perspectives reflect the harmful gender stereotypes that permeate South Korean society," Amnesty International's Boram Jang said at the time. "They are based on the belief that women are not full human beings with the same rights."

Quite a few women in South Korea see this as the political breeding ground in which the violence of toxic men can thrive. The most recent femicide has at least triggered a social debate.

Hundreds of Korean women continue to flock to the crime scene at Sindang subway station to express their grief.

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